Picking the right college backpack can get pretty tricky. Of course, you want to look stylish, but you’re also going to be using the bag for at least a year and possibly beyond, depending on how well you get on with it. As you finally head back to campus for the Fall 2021 semester, having a cool backpack is more important than ever. What’s the point of taking all that time at home if you’re going to come back to campus looking lame?
Therefore, it’s important to choose college backpacks that check all the right boxes. The best backpacks for college students are large enough to carry your new laptop, books, your best water bottle and other daily essentials. It should also rest comfortably on your shoulders throughout the day and be durable enough to last for several semesters.
If you’re not quite sure what you want or need in your bag, it’s definitely worth checking out our guide ensuring you pick the right backpack. Deciding between looks and function as well as comfort and capacity are all important factors that need to be considered before you commit your cash.
To help you decide, we put together a list of the best backpacks for college students. We have options from top brands like Topo Designs and Fjallraven as well as budget buys and lesser-known commuter options. Check out all 30 and decide which option is best for your college experience.
1. Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Laptop Backpack
If you head to any college campus in the United States today, you’ll find a sea of Herschel Supply Co. backpacks. You’ll also find several options from these companies on this list, for the simple reason that these companies make the best backpacks for college students, period. This option from Herschel is well-reviewed, large enough to hold a 15-inch laptop, durable and on-trend. However, it’s also an unpretentious backpack, perfect as an everyday carryall for class.
2. Mancro Laptop Backpack
BEST BUDGET BUY
Surely 13,000+ people can’t be wrong? The Mancro Laptop Backpack has an impressive number of five-star reviews and sports a simple yet stylish design, which provides a versatility few other bags can achieve. There’s a wealth of pockets for comfortable storage of everything from your smartphone and laptop (up to 15.6″) to a bottle, an umbrella and even your lunch. The smart bag also sports an easy-to-carry handle on top and a padlock for security, plus a built-in USB port for easy charging on the go.
3. JanSport Right Pack College Backpacks
BEST CLASSIC STYLE
The JanSport Right Pack is the right choice for you if you are after a classic college backpack. It’s available in a range of colors and features one main compartment as well as a front accessory pocket. The bottom of the backpack is reinforced with suede leather for durability and style. Furthermore, the bag’s straps are padded for comfort, and there’s a top-mounted carry handle for alternative carrying options. Pretty much every student in America is familiar with JanSport bags, and you can never go wrong by picking out one that speaks to you. No matter the colorway, this is always one of the best backpacks for college students.
4. Day Owl Backpack
By keeping it casual in 2021, you’re keeping it trendy. Fashion trends nowadays are all about ease and comfort and with this effortlessly cool backpack from Day Owl, you’ll be hitting the nail on the head. It has a pretty mundane exterior that helps you merge into the crowd of people on campus all while containing multiple secret pockets and a recycled canvas. It even comes with a lifetime of free repairs, so no matter how many times you rip it, Day Owl will fix it for you.
5. Fjallraven Raven 28
While you can never go wrong with the Classic Fjallraven backpack, we like the Raven 28 model for college. Designed specifically for students, this backpack comes with a pocket for 15″ laptops, as well as extra compartments for textbooks, snacks and anything else you need during a long day on campus. This model doesn’t come in as many fun colors as other bags from Fjallraven, but it’s a durable and stylish laptop backpack that’s perfect for college students. And at a mid-range $110, it’s an affordable bag for most college students and is without a doubt the best Fjallraven backpack out right now.
6. lululemon City Adventurer Backpack
BEST FOR ATHLETIC TYPES
If you’re just as concerned with setting a personal record on your bench press as you are setting a personal record in class, this City Adventurer backpack from lululemon will be a great companion. Designed to be both an athletic bag and a college bag, you’re getting the best of both worlds without having to sacrifice either. With an exterior padded pocket, there’s room enough for a 15″ laptop, while an expandable pocket has enough room for all your sweaty gear. And with its minimalist design and range of colorways, it’ll look as good in the gym room as it does in the classroom. Just because it isn’t your standard gym bag, doesn’t mean it won’t work for workouts.
7. Everlane Modern Snap Backpack
This minimalistic beauty from Everlane pulls off that snap shut look you’ve always loved in style. Fit your Macbook, notebooks, pens and pencils alike comfortably in the snap’s interior while throwing your Nalgene right in the side exterior pockets. This is probably the epitome of a college backpack, too. We can already picture you throwing it on your dorm bed after a long week of classes before getting ready for a night out with your buds.
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8. Topo Designs Light Pack
BEST COLOR OPTIONS
We had to include at least one more option from Topo Designs, which makes some of the best backpacks for college students. While we love their classic leather and canvas day pack, the $145 price tag is more than many broke college students can afford. For a more affordable option from this popular apparel company that costs less than $75, go with the brand’s popular Light Backpack. Like all the best college backpacks, this bag can fit your laptop and textbooks with ease. However, it also comes in retro 90s coloring that’s perfect for standing out on campus.
9. Cole Haan ZERØGRAND Slim Convertible Backpack
We want to say this backpack looks handsome, but we can’t even see it. Get it? That was a camo joke. Anyway, the ZERØGRAND Slim Convertible Backpack is a knockout because first and foremost, it’s from Cole Haan. We should know by now that everything by Cole Haan is a showstopper. Additionally, it’s great because of its water-resistant lining, adjustable shoulder straps and ability to fit a 15-inch laptop with total ease.
10. Vessel Skyline Backpack
Minimalists will geek over this gorgeously sleek faux-leather backpack designed with water-resistant technology. The lustrous black exterior is so eyepopping, that you kind of forget it’s just a backpack. This baby has one large opening and an outside front bottom zip for extra knickknacks you’re bringing to class. When it rains or snows at the beginning of the spring semester, you won’t even have to worry about the interior contents inside getting at all wet due to the water-resistant make.
11. The Friendly Swede Waterproof Backpack
BEST FOR WET CONDITIONS
If your college is located somewhere more prone to rain than shine, it’s worth investing in this waterproof backpack. It might not be the most stylish backpack on the list, but its minimalist look is still pretty cool. Plus, it will always keep your belongings dry. This backpack is available in either black or white and features a roll-top main compartment to ensure no raindrops find their way inside. The backpack also features three outer zip pockets that are waterproof and ideal for smartphones or other small essentials.
12. Monos Metro Backpack
We’re definitely swooning at this handsome all-black backpack from Monos. From on-campus dwellers to on-time commuters, a smaller bag is ideal for the kind of guy that doesn’t really need to bring it all. Fit your keys and wallet in the front pouch while sliding your 15-inch laptop and a few notebooks in the larger zipped interiors. You’ll look great and your back will thank you for carrying less. It’s also available in a number of different colors, ranging in black, green, blue and grey nylon finishes, as well as brown, tan and ivory vegan leather exteriors. Right now, you can only pre-order this bad boy, but we suggest you do it quickly before the limited quantity available begins to diminish.
13. Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack
You know the blue tarp material that they use to cover pools in the winter or throw over construction sites during rainstorms? Its full name is tarpaulin, and the water-resistant material is now used to make stylish and durable backpacks. If you want something that will withstand the elements, this Rogue Laptop Backpack is the golden ticket. The top-loading pack includes a roomy main compartment, so nothing will get in the way of squeezing a few extra items in there. Plus, it’s available in four different colors, so you can find the shade that fits you best.
14. The North Face Borealis Backpack
BEST FOR BACK PROBLEMS
Hauling around a heavy bag usually takes a nasty toll on your back, especially if you do it every day. That’s why we love this spacious option from North Face. This nylon and polyester backpack features adjustable shoulder straps that boast an extra layer of foam. Plus, the bag has a padded back panel with a spine channel that’s even been endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association. If you pick this one up, your back will thank us later.
15. Timberland Crofton 30-Liter Carry-it-All Backpack
BEST FOR LONG WEEKEND TRIPS
Let’s be real, not every weekend trip calls for a whole carry-on or weekend bag. If you’re more the minimalist type when it comes to getting off campus for a holiday weekend, this large half ReBOTL recycled polyester Timberland backpack will hold a few day’s worth of clothing, snacks, meds, water bottles and really any other travel necessity. We know your feet are covered in Tims all winter long anyway, so why not try the brand on your back this spring?
16. Fjallraven Recycled Kanken Backpack
For students most concerned about saving the planet, the Fjallraven Recycled Kanken Backpack is made entirely from recycled water bottles. It’s also colored using a far less intensive dying process to further aid the environment. The bag itself sports a range of carrying options, including tote handles and straps, as well as two open side pockets and a rain flap for protection from the elements. Inside, there’s a large central storage space along with an info tag so your bag is easy to identify if you lose it.
17. Herschel Little America Mid-Volume Backpack
With over 20 color combinations to choose from, the Herschel Little America Mid-Volume Backpack allows the wearer to express his or her personality through their backpack. These college backpacks also sport buckled top straps and front-facing pockets to add to the bags’ impressive rucksack style. On the front pocket, there’s a Herschel brand patch for a classy finish. The bag’s straps are padded for comfort, and the top pocket features a drawstring to ensure your belongings are always secure inside.
18. Mokuyobi Flyer Backpack
BEST STATEMENT BACKPACK
If you’re more the eclectic type, snag a bold-colored pack that’ll be sure to turn some heads. Though this one may look like it’s solely for aesthetic purposes, don’t be fooled, there are pockets upon pockets upon pockets here, both on the exterior and interior. Though be warned, this backpack is made from nylon, so we can’t guarantee everything will stay dry during any sudden downpours when you have to get across campus.
19. Tanchen 4K Canvas Artist Portfolio
BEST FOR ART STUDENTS
If you’re an art student that’s looking for a stylish yet practical solution for carrying both your canvas and your gear to and from class, this canvas bag from Tanchen is a sturdy yet good-looking solution to your problem. The heavy canvas gives the whole bag a really slick and stylish appearance. And while looking good is great, it’s got to be functional too. Good news there, as the bag has plenty of exterior pocket storage to carry a smaller size laptop and any art supplies you may need for class.
20. UA Clear Backpack
BEST CLEAR BACKPACK
Bare it all in a clear pack that shows you really don’t give a crap if people know what you’re lugging around. Popularized in recent years at concerts and music festivals, clear backpacks are now necessary for many big events. Snag one in advance for any rain-checked music events you’re planning on attending this year. Until then, unapologetically show off that 14 cent Lisa Frank notebook you bought from Staples all semester long.
21. Everlane ReNew Transit Backpack
BEST FOR INTERNS
It’s a weird year for college students. Actually, it’s a weird year for everyone. But if you’re starting a new job or internship, you’ll want to make a good impression, and we’ve got the perfect bag for you. With a unique design and neutral charcoal color, Everlane’s ReNew Transit Backpack is a trendy, compact sack made from 100% recycled polyester with a water-resistant finish. And get this, there’s a discreet internal zipper laptop sleeve to ensure your Macbook stays safe and sound. Whether you’re on the way to a full-time position or it’s just one of those days you happen to spill your entire coffee on a woman’s lap on the A train again, stay looking cool and confident in a backpack made to tackle whatever kind of day you’re having.
22. Mission Workshop Rhake Backpack
BEST FOR THE LONG HAUL
While it’s one of the more expensive backpacks on this list, Mission Workshop’s Rhake backpack is a bag that’s a worthy investment for the long haul. Built from highly durable Cordura fabric, the bag is 100% weatherproof and built to last. But, should it happen to fall apart, Mission will replace the entire bag and ship it back to you completely free of charge. With its 22L capacity, you’ll have enough room for everything you can think of, including taking it as an overnight bag when you travel. Its padded laptop sleeve can be accessed on the side if you’re really in a hurry.
23. MCM Stark 40 Visetos Backpack
Carry everything you need in a designer bag that’ll get the campus talking. While MCM’s Stark 40 Viestos Backpack resembles pebbled leather on the outside, it’s actually draped in coated canvas, giving it an ultramodern look and feel. Dual zip compartments help organize and separate your books from your laptop. When the week’s over, use it as a charming weekend pack for visiting mom and dad. They’ll ask why the hell you chose to splurge on a backpack of all things, but, it’s fashion. You gotta do what you gotta do to look good.
24. Patagonia Black Hole Backpack
Patagonia has been long known for its commitment to durable, high-quality and environmentally-friendly bags, and that tradition is alive and well in the Black Hole Backpack. At 25L, it’s got a massive amount of storage, which means you’ll be able to toss anything and everything you can think of in there without worry. But it’s got to be able to carry the essential supplies for class, which it does with ease. A padded 15″ laptop sleeve allows for clear division inside the bag so things don’t get too jumbled around. Plus, the 100% recycled polyester ripstop has been coated with a TPU laminate that will hold up well in the elements.
25. L.L.Bean Continental Rucksack
BEST FOR WEEKEND HIKERS
Anyone who’s tried anything from L.L.Bean knows that every product they make is head-to-toe nature-ready. If you plan on making sure your weekend getaways involve totally disconnecting, while still making sure you can lug a laptop around, this is the college backpack you’ll want to have. Its large main compartment has room enough for snacks, notebooks and your after-class gym garb while its side water bottle pockets can keep you well-hydrated on the trail. Though it’s sold in a couple stellar colors, we love the classic khaki pictured below.
26. Herschel Supply Co. Tech Daypack Mid-Volume
BEST FOR MINIMALISTS
We know what you’re thinking — Herschel again? Yes. Sorry, not sorry. This minimal-on-the-outside backpack is in no way minimal on the inside. It’s got a ton of interior pockets for keeping all of your most important items such as your laptop, tablet and notebook. Additionally, throw in your keys, chargers — whatever. There’s more than enough room in here without making you look like you’re standing out from the crowd.
27. XRAY Expandable Roll Top Backpack
Drawing from classic military-style bags, this backpack from XRAY is a modern update on a vintage favorite. The rolltop closure evokes that old-school style bag while incorporating modern features like a waterproof outer and space to keep your laptop. Its toned-down, all-green design is great for those that aren’t into super bold colors. And, as with all college backpacks, there are plenty of pockets for storing all your various items.
28. Herschel Dawson
MOST ORGANIZED HERSCHEL
What makes the Dawson backpack different from other Herschel bags is that the front of the bag features two separate pockets instead of one large front compartment, so you’ll be able to throw your earbuds and keys in one pocket and your pens in the other. The 20.5L main compartment features a drawstring closure with a foam lining for added protection. The backpack comes in a variety of different color combinations, from classic black and tan to a vibrant Monaco blue.
29. JanSport Big Campus Backpack
BEST LARGE JANSPORT
If you’re the type of person who likes to schedule everything on the same day, then you need a bag that can handle the textbook stack for back-to-back classes. That’s where this Big Campus Backpack from Jansport swoops in. Measuring out to a roomy 17.5″ x 13″ x 10″, this bag has two main compartments with plenty of space for all your goods. Plus, it even has a few extra zipper pockets, and it comes in the classic Jansport style. Not to mention, the ergonomic S-curve shoulder straps help your back handle the heavy school load.
30. Eddie Bauer Ashford Sherpa Pack
Something we never thought we’d ever see is a backpack resembling the interior of your favorite winter jacket. With that being said, here’s a backpack that resembles the interior of your favorite winter jacket. With a polyester sherpa-fleece exterior, walk around carrying what looks to be a sheep on your back all around campus. It’s comfy, it’s cozy and it’s stylish, so why not?
Some FAQs About the Best Backpacks for College Students
College students: we know this might sound hard, but pack anything you absolutely need for class in your backpack. Notebooks, laptop, pens, pencils, a water bottle, a snack if it's a long day — the list goes on. It's really up to you, but please don't show up to class with nothing to take notes on. You'll look like an idiot.
You can purchase backpacks for college students wherever you do the majority of your shopping. Amazon is a solid spot that has a majority of excellent brands and deals. You can also check places like Target, Walmart and other large department stores. If you want to get a little fancier, places such as Urban Outfitters, Everlane and Nordstrom have some trendy-looking backpacks to consider.
This is a fantastic question. Most backpacks that are made from cloth-like materials such as cotton, polyester and canvas can go directly into the washing machine. We suggest you wash your backpack on the lowest setting and do it solo. Some backpacks will say you should spot clean, so be sure to check your backpack's tag before you do anything. Never throw your backpack in the dryer — instead, we suggest you hang dry. Remember to take everything out before you put your backpack in the wash, too!